Sep 1, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Every year, the consumer electronics industry seems to outdo itself. New technologies emerge that bring even more convenience and entertainment to our lives. For example, here are five new products and services that could have a major impact on the TV industry and our culture.
The $699 High-Definition TV: No, that’s not a misprint. Samsung has just introduced a 27-inch HDTV for just $699, the lowest price yet for a high-def set. Before you run to the store, however, remember that you will also need a $600-$700 HDTV tuner to receive high-def signals. In addition, the 27-inch TV delivers a standard 4:3 picture rather than the 16:9 wide-screen format found on most HDTVs. However, by lowering the price now, Samsung and the HDTV industry could have a big holiday season. Many consumers have been considering buying a high-def set but have hesitated because of the high cost. The Samsung price breakthrough could change their thinking.
Disney’s “Video Store in a Box”: Disney next year plans to sell a set-top that will be loaded with up to 100 classic movies and new releases. Called Moviebeam, the Disney service will also transmit between seven and 12 new movies each week. Unlike cable’s video-on-demand, the Moviebeam films will be available at about the same time that they hit video rental stores. If successful, Moviebeam could give the new VOD business a run for its money. Other studios might launch their own set-tops. And Sony could start downloading on-demand films to its online PlayStation2 customers. The film industry will be watching Moviebeam very closely.
The “Cable-Ready” High-Definition TV: The FCC is considering a proposal for a national “plug and play” standard for digital TVs that would not require set-tops. Consumers could simply connect their cable lines to the back of their sets. But Panasonic and Hitachi are not waiting around for the feds. In the next month, the TV makers plan to introduce the first “digital cable ready” high-definition TVs. If they catch on, the “plug and play” sets could hurt cable set-top makers. However, those manufacturers believe consumers will still want set-tops because they can offer more services, such as digital video recording.
The Videotape Killer: Hewlett-Packard this month is launching a gadget that enables consumers to transfer their analog VHS tapes to DVDs. Priced at $399, the “Movie Writer” connects to a computer and can record videos from VHS, or several camcorder formats, directly onto the disc. With the digital video recorder likely to replace the VCR in the coming years, the videotape is headed for the last roundup.
The Portable Video Player: Sony this month is introducing a new handheld computer that will play and record audio and video. With a built-in wi-fi receiver, which enables the user to surf the Net without wires, the Sony “Clie Personal Entertainment Device” can access music files, videos and photos from a home computer. When home networking becomes commonplace in the next few years. consumers using handhelds will be able to retrieve everything from a recorded TV show to the latest video release from Moviebeam. It certainly will make road trips more interesting.
Phillip Swann is president & publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.